Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Italy Keeps Dini on, Opting for Stability over Elections

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Italy Keeps Dini on, Opting for Stability over Elections

Article excerpt

WHEN is a resignation not a resignation? When it happens in Italy, seems to be the wry point of view here.

Although Prime Minister Lamberto Dini stepped down at the end of last year, saying his technocratic government had completed its tasks, President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro rejected the resignation. So Mr. Dini, a former Bank of Italy economist, remains on the job.

Mr. Scalfaro's logic apparently is that Italy, which has a 50-year tradition of revolving-door governments, needs someone at the helm as Italy assumes its six-month presidency of the European Union (EU) this month.

Dini opened a parliamentary debate on his government's fate Tuesday evening, in which he stressed its accomplishments and the responsibility Italy had toward its EU partners.

He also defended himself from charges that his staying on was a move to keep Italy from holding early elections. In refusing the resignation, Scalfaro chose to avoid a government crisis, he said, to give Parliament an opportunity to debate the next step.

"The government never acted looking at how long it would last," said Dini, who succeeded Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi one year ago. "To the contrary, we have several times voluntarily put the government's survival at risk {in confidence votes} so as to obtain the approval of measures essential for the country."

Dini then suggested that Parliament has three options. The first is to reach broad agreement on constitutional reforms and create a government for the transition period. This indicates the government is taking seriously calls to rewrite the Constitution. After years of corruption scandals, many politicians would like to see reforms that would guarantee a stable government and decentralize power. The hitch is that nobody agrees on the specific reforms or how to make them.

IN past weeks, Italy's political parties seemed to have rejected joining together to support a common government. Such a government, many argue, could amend the Constitution to introduce federalism or even direct election of the prime minister. …

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